June 11, 2018
Viewpoint

We need to build more homes

Rita Coffey

The Realtors in my office will frequently tell their clients all real estate is local. They say that for a very good reason; because it's true. The market conditions in one area are frequently different than the market conditions in another area. And those areas could be next to each other. However, there is a trend debunking that well-used phrase: The lack of homes for sale across the entire state, including Worcester and Worcester County.

When I say lack of homes for sale, I mean historically low number of homes for sale. In the city of Worcester, the April inventory of single-family homes dropped 39 percent over April of last year. Looking back five years, inventory has gone down 160 percent compared to April 2014. This type of inventory decrease isn't limited to the city. Worcester County is experiencing similar drops. April inventory is down 28 percent from April 2017 and down 55 percent from April 2014.

What hasn't gone down in that time is prices. The median price of a single-family home in the city of Worcester in 2018 is up almost 8 percent from 2017 to $245,000. From April 2014, the median price is up almost 47 percent. Worcester County is seeing median price increases of 9 percent from April 2017 and up 17 percent from April 2014.

We're in a true supply-and-demand market. The scarcity of homes is not only pushing prices up on those homes for sale, but also keeping would-be sellers from selling because they are concerned they won't be able to find a home to move to. This keeps rents very high.

Simply stated, we need to build more homes and more apartments to meet the demand in Worcester, Worcester County and across the state. If we can do that, then housing will be more available and more affordable.

The first thing we need to do is recognize this is a statewide problem calling for statewide solutions and not 351 individual ones. We need to promote smart land use, reduce red tape and remove barriers to local housing development. It's the Massachusetts Association of Realtors position in the short-term (the next three-to-five years) the best way to start to make a dent in this inventory crisis is by making it easier for communities and our housing production allies to allow accessory dwelling units and create additional zoning for multi-family housing.

There is more to do in the long-term as well. On the bright side, it looks like recognition of this inventory crisis is starting to happen as Gov. Charlie Baker introduced his Housing Choice initiative. This is a statewide initiative is an incentive-based program designed to increase production.

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors looks forward to working with the governor, the state legislature, cities and towns to create more housing. Because if we don't address this problem now, the strong Massachusetts economy helping make our state one of the best in the country and bringing a renewed vibrancy to Worcester will falter. And that's something we can't afford.

Rita Coffey is the 2018 president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and general manager of Century 21 Tullish & Clancy in Weymouth.

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